Back Home Up Next



In my dissertation entitled "Going Down Town With Grandpa", I left out one important place of business. This was the Star Mercantile Company, a grocery store run by J. M. Davis and several of his sons. J. M. was a fine man. You would see him every day walking from his home on School House Hill, past our house, to his store. It was a sort of basic country store with staples and meat and I remember he had a contraption for cuffing chewing tobacco. It came in a slab about ten inches long and about four inches wide and if you did not want a whole piece, this tobacco cutter would cut off the size you wanted. My grandfather chewed Red Coon and it came with a tin red coon on the plug, with little metal tabs that were imbedded in the tobacco and in those days was not wrapped in cellophane or plastic like it later was. I remember these large slabs of tobacco came in wooden boxes, neatly dove tailed and one side would be opened when it was put on display. Later one of his sons was postmaster, one a schoolteacher, and another retired from the Air Force. On my way to Viet Nam, we were on Okinawa waiting for the plane when I heard his name announced over the loudspeaker and checked to see if it was the Harold Davis I knew and it was. We got to chat for about five minutes and then had to catch our plane.

Another store I mentioned was the A & P. One day the manager, Mr. Basham approached my mother and asked her if I would like to have a job on Saturdays. Now that was a great opportunity to make a little spending money. They had to pay the minimum wage of twenty five cents an hour because the A & P Tea Company chain had stores in many states and were therefore under the interstate commerce requirement to pay the minimum wage, less Social Security.

We are accustomed to going through a check out counter where computers do most of the work. I got the job because Mr. Basham found out I was good in mathematics. There was a cash register, which would register sales up to $9.99. If a sale was more than that, you would have to ring up another sale for the difference between $9.99 and the amount of the sale. Not many sales required this process.

You would get the merchandise the customer wanted, amass it on the counter, and with a pencil, write all the prices in a neat row on the grocery bag, add them up in your head and total them. Then you would check them with the customer, collect the money and ring up the sale. From what I have observed, today most clerks would have a difficult time performing this simple operation, which is not to the credit of our educational system.

Musings of Henry T. Cook, Lt. Col., USMC (Ret.)